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Topanga Canyon

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Topanga is a pocket tucked in the Santa Monica Mountains with a population of around 6000. It was developed in the early 1900s as a retreat from Hollywood. In the late '40s and '50s artists, folk singers and musicians moved there — it is where Woody Guthrie wrote 'This Land Is Your Land' and Joni Mitchell became known as "lady of the canyon". There are around 30 recording studios throughout the canyon and you do spot the occasional rock star.

Topanga Canyon begins in the San Fernando Valley and ends at the Pacific Ocean and it's hard to believe that such a place exists so close to the buzzing metropolis of Los Angeles. More than 4000 hectares of land make up the park, the world's largest wildland within the boundaries of a major city. There is open grassland, beautiful oaks and wonderful views to the Pacific Ocean and on hikes along 60km of trails it is not uncommon to see mountain lions, snakes and coyotes. The park has many geologic formations — earthquake faults, marine fossils, volcanic intrusions and many sedimentary formations.

Ranger Tim Hayden and his family are lucky enough to live in the park. He watches out for the safety of thousands of campers, hikers and horseback riders as they roam through his back yard. He can provide hiking maps leading to the beautiful Parker Mesa overlook, Eagle Rock and Los Liones, all manageable walks in a day — but he warns you to keep an eye open for critters!

The township of Topanga lies in the shadows of the magnificent mountains and locals love that the hype of LA and Hollywood hasn't spread to their haven. It is stuck in the 1970s, with a hippie ethic, music from that era heard widely and the wafting aroma of patchouli oil permeating the air. Coffee is generally organic, muffins are made with soy milk and there are shops with quirky clothing and accessories. Hidden Treasures is just that and you need to set aside a good couple of hours to sift through the wares. Their stock ranges from nautical to funky, tropical to antique. It is so eclectic many movie stylists shop there.

Jerri Manthey, the bad girl from the Survivor Outback program, has made Topanga her home. She finds canyon lifestyle perfect for her. She is not under the microscope of fame there and can live a normal life, regularly performing her fire dances!

For a truly wonderful dining experience you may like to visit Abuelitas which sits beside a creek and offers indoor and outdoor dining. It is a cheerful little restaurant just like a Mexican grandmother's house, complete with clutter and curtains. Cuisine is a blend of Mexican and American, and if you've never tried mole chicken (cooked with spicy Mexican chocolate), it is a treat. There are enchiladas, tacos, burritos and their famous desert is Chocolate Chimichanga, made of white chocolate cream and caramel sauce wrapped in a flaky tortilla. Dark chocolate is poured over the whole thing. Of course, their margaritas are a taste sensation! The restaurant has a gallery which is a good excuse to do some post-prandial walking!

Location

50 kilometres from Hollywood

Cost

Flight Centre has return airfares to Los Angeles, including taxes, with varying purchase and travel dates. Conditions apply.

Sydney — $1557 … valid for sale until December 9, 2005, for travel between November 1 and December 9, 2005, and February 1 and March 31, 2006.

Brisbane — $1629 … valid for sale until December 9, 2005, for travel between November 1 and December 9, 2005, and February 1 and March 31, 2006.

Melbourne — $1693 … valid for sale until December 9, 2005, for travel between November 1 and December 9, 2005, and February 1 and March 31, 2006.

Adelaide — $1908 … valid for sale and travel until November 23, 2005.

Perth — $1949 … valid for sale until November 15, 2005, for travel between November 4 and December 5, 2005.

To book a flight call Flight Centre on 131 600.

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

More information

Ranger Tim Hayden
Topanga State Park
Ph: 0011 1 310 455 2465 Ext 106

Hidden Treasures
154 South Topanga Canyon Boulevard
Topanga Cal 90290
Ph: 0011 1 310 455 298

Abuelitas
137 South Topanga Canyon Boulevard
Topanga Cal 90290
Ph: 0011 1 310 455 8788

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